Brain Pickings

Anatomy of Anagrammatic Pseudonyms: The Many Incarnations of Edward Gorey

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An infant poet, a postcard-writer, a movie reviewer, a girl detective, and a spirit control walk into a bar…

A master of the subversive and the darkly delightful, Edward Gorey is among the most celebrated illustrators of the past century. His creations, ranging from irreverent children’s books to paperback covers for literary classics to naughty delights for grownups to his illustrated envelopes, are as singularly distinctive as they are timelessly enchanting. But Gorey, himself a darkly enigmatic character, was himself a curious creation — so much so that people have regularly questioned his very name. While many were surprised to know it was real, Gorey did indeed have a number of pseudonyms. In Who’s Writing This?: Notations on the Authorial I with Self-Portraits (public library) — the same fantastic 1996 volume that gave us famous authors’ illustrated self-portraits — Gorey draws his self-portrait and tells the story of his name and his pseudonyms.

What’s particularly interesting is that while the question of whether Gorey was gay has been the subject of much speculation — speculation he gladly played into by stating, “I’m neither one thing nor the other particularly… I’ve never said that I was gay and I’ve never said that I wasn’t.” — most of his imaginary pen-name personae are female:

About the time the first book was published over forty years ago I found my name lent itself to an edifying number of anagrams, some of which I’ve used as pen names, as imaginary authors, and as characters in their or my books. A selection of examples follows.

Ogded Weary has written The Curious Sofa, a porno-graphic work, and The Beastly Baby, a book no one wanted to publish.

Mrs. Regera Dowdy, who lived in the nineteenth century, is the author of The Pious Infant and such unwritten works as The Rivulets of Gore and Nets to Subdue the Deranged; she also translated The Evil Garden by Eduard Blutig, the pictures for which were drawn by O. Müde.

Madame Groeda Weyrd devise the Fantod Pack of fortune-telling cards.

Miss D. Awdrey-Gore was a celebrated and prolific mystery writer. . . . Her detective is Waredo Dyrge, whose favorite reading is the Dreary Rwedgo Series for Intrepid Young Ladies. . . .

Dogear Wryde’s work appears only on postcards.

Addée Gorrwy is known as the Postcard Poetess.

Wardore Edgy wrote movie reviews for a few months.

Wee Graddory was an Infant Poet of an earlier century.

Dora Greydew, Girl Detective, is the heroine of a series (The Creaking Knot, The Curse on the Sagwood Estate, etc.) by Edgar E. Wordy.

Garrod Weedy is the author of The Pointless Book.

Agowy Erderd is a spirit control.

However, I am still taken aback whenever someone asks me if that indeed is my real name.

Edward Gorey

You can see, and support, more of Gorey’s work and legacy at Edward Gorey House. Meanwhile, Who’s Writing This?, which features contributions from such beloved authors as John Updike, Susan Sontag, Mark Helprin, Diane Ackerman, Edward Albee, Arthur Miller, and Margaret Atwood, remains well worth the full read.

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